Music | University of Oxford
String player at the Faculty of Music, Oxford.
(Image credit: Rob Judges Photography / Oxford University Images).


Music can be studied from a wide variety of perspectives. We ‘study’ music by reading, listening, performing and composing. We investigate, through analysis, the relationships between the various parts of the composition. We use documentary evidence to explore how reliable and authoritative a score is and how to perform it. We investigate the various uses of music to see how a musical work (or repertory or style) has been shaped over time, and how it might differ from that of earlier ages or of different cultures.

Music at Oxford

  • Music has been part of the life of Oxford for more than 800 years.
  • There are 30 academic staff – scholars with distinguished reputations as musicologists, performers or composers.
  • Numerous speakers and professional performing ensembles visit.
  • Students enjoy performance and composition workshops, and play an active part in the life of their colleges – in chapels, orchestras, ensembles, bands and stage performances.
  • The faculty building incorporates practice rooms, electronic music and recording studios, and probably one of the best music libraries in a British university. The world-famous Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, housed in the faculty, lends historical instruments to students.
  • The course is broadly based but allows increasing specialisation and choice as you proceed. Performance and composition are prominent, but you can concentrate on other areas such as history or analysis.
  • Students graduate as mature and well-rounded musicians with an informed and lively sense of the contemporary study and practice of the subject.


Teaching, performance and arts administration are among the more popular destinations for Music graduates, but others include broadcasting, publishing, the law, politics and the Civil Service. Many students undertake further study in performance, often at conservatoires in the UK and abroad.

After graduating, Fabienne secured a marketing and public relations internship with the Philharmonia Orchestra. She then worked for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra before being headhunted for her current role as Head of Communications and Marketing at Intermusica, an industry-leading international classical music management agency. She says; ‘Our roster includes Marin Alsop, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Daniil Trifonov, Sir Willard White, James MacMillan, Leonidas Kavakos and many others. Naturally my music degree has proved an extremely helpful foundation for a career in classical music management but I would say that the most important thing I gained from Oxford was confidence and resilience and being able to meet people from all walks of life.’

A typical week

  • Four to six lectures a week
  • One or two tutorials in college
  • Practice, workshops and rehearsals
  • More time for independent study in the summer terms.

Tutorials are usually 2-4 students and a tutor. Lecture sizes may vary depending on the options you choose. Compulsory lectures are the largest and will include the full year group of around 70 students, while the smallest lectures, for specialist options, might include fewer than 10 students.  Seminars will also usually involve 10-12 students.

Most lectures are delivered by Associate Professors and Professors within the University.  Most of these professors are also college subject tutors (although not all college tutors are University lecturers). Each college’s subject tutor is responsible for giving and coordinating tutorials.  Many tutors are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching (mostly at tutorial level) may also be delivered by postgraduate students, who are usually studying at doctoral level.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

1st year


Six subjects are taken (one chosen from a list of options)


  • Special topics, for example: Machaut’s songs
    Historically informed performance
    Schubert’s last decade
    Psychology of everyday musical experience
    Global hip hop
  • Musical analysis
  • Techniques of composition and keyboard skills
  • Issues in the study of music
  • Composition
  • Performance
  • Extended essay


Three written papers and one ‘take-away’ paper, a practical examination and a recital/portfolio of compositions/essay

2nd and 3rd years


Eight subjects are taken (six chosen from a list of options)


  • Topics in music history before 1750
  • Topics in music history after 1700
Optional topics studied
  • Musical analysis and criticism
  • Musical thought and scholarship
  • Techniques of composition
  • Solo performance
  • Orchestration
  • Dissertation
  • Composition portfolio
  • Edition with commentary
  • Analysis portfolio
  • Music ethnography
  • Chamber music performance
  • Choral conducting
  • Choral performance
  • Special topic papers. Some recent examples include: Music perception; Music in Scandinavia; Women composers; Dance music; Lieder; Music & society in England, 1851–1914; Music in the community
Please note that the courses listed above are illustrative and may change. A full list of current options is available on the Music website.


Final University examinations: Three or more written papers and a combination of take-away papers, portfolio submissions, recitals and practical tests, depending on the options chosen

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.)

Candidates are expected to have Music to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent. Keyboard ability of ABRSM Grade V or above is also highly recommended.

If, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

If unsure about your qualifications please contact  

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support


A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man


Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Music

Students may choose to have instrumental or voice tuition as part of their course, though please note that performance is not compulsory. With advice from your tutors, you can choose your own instrumental tutors. You will need to pay for these lessons yourself, but the money will be refunded by the Music Faculty at the end of term, up to £275. This usually covers the full cost of tuition.

Students can also apply to take part in a  Faculty-funded scheme with the Royal Academy of Music, which provides 8 hourly lessons and participation in master-classes and performance classes at the RAM.

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written test

There is no written test, but candidates who are invited to interview in Oxford will be asked to give a performance of a prepared piece on the candidate’s principal instrument or voice (organists, percussionists and candidates requiring an accompanist should inform the faculty in advance of the interview period).

Candidates not possessing keyboard fluency to ABRSM Grade V may be asked to take a standardised keyboard sight-reading test at interview. Please indicate your level of keyboard proficiency on your UCAS application. Some tutors may ask you to study a short piece of music and/or text about music in preparation for your interview; if so, this material will be given to you during your stay in Oxford.

Written work

You will need to submit written work by Saturday 10 November 2018 when applying for this course. Please send the following:

  • Two pieces of teacher-marked written work, at least one of which should normally be on music. The emphasis in on quality of thought, not on quantity: c. 1500 words per essay is entirely sufficient; 
  • and one or two examples of teacher-marked harmony and counterpoint (eg Baroque chorale, 16th century counterpoint, 2-part invention, string quartet, Romantic songs); 
  • and, if you wish, one or two short examples of original composition, which should be in some form of notated score.

Please print on only one side of the paper. For more information, and to download a cover sheet, please see our further guidance on the submission of written work.

What are tutors looking for?

Potential to engage with the undergraduate course through a genuine spirit of enquiry and keenness to think critically about music.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Music website.

Suggested reading

Please refer to this recommended reading list


Mark Simpson

Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford.


'The Oxford music course suits me because it is broad and varied, but also has lots of space to make it my own. For my final exams I am sitting papers in broad aspects of music history (from English renaissance polyphony to electronic music), analysis, and issues to do with how we study music but I am also writing a dissertation about the music in a primary school near Oxford, essays on Brazilian music, and a report from the term I spent working on a music project with children with autism. I have friends who are playing the Rite of Spring for piano duet for a chamber music exam, who are singing Schubert Lieder for a solo recital, and who are analysing Bach organ fugues for an analysis portfolio - and those are just the people in my year in my college! If you are passionate about music, and keen to explore the subject from many different angles, there will be something in the Oxford course for you.'


'From playing for three evensongs a week to being immersed in the sound world of the Bosavi Rainforest people in Papua New Guinea, Oxford has been a fantastic experience so far. One aspect of Oxford’s music course that first attracted me was the diversity and the choice it gives students, particularly in the final year.

I am currently studying a variety of history topics, ranging from the 13th-century motet to film music, along with some composition and analysis courses. I want to be a performer and knowing that I can choose to concentrate on this later in the course has helped me to focus my interests throughout the term.'

Andrew, who graduated in 2006

He is now the Assistant Director of Music at King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon. He says:   

‘Since graduating I have been involved in professional music-making and education. I’m currently combining teaching music with working on educational research. The experiences afforded by an Oxford education and participation in student societies around my course have enabled me to be seen, in post-Oxford life, as a safe pair of hands, both in terms of academic issues and administrative matters. This means I have been able to gain responsibilities in the areas of education management and school governance fairly early on in my career.’

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.

Oxford’s tutorial system

Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.

A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.

Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.

The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.

More information about tutorials

The benefits of the college system

  • Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
  • Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
  • Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.

It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college

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